HIGH ART: Signs of Macker opens in Los Angeles

By on February 12, 2013
Photo Cutline: Der Holzfäller, Ferdinand Hodler, 1910, 2012 - Type C Print. Photo Credit: Thomas Macker

Photo Cutline: Der Holzfäller, Ferdinand Hodler, 1910, 2012 – Type C Print.
Photo Credit: Thomas Macker

Jackson-based artist and photographer Thomas Macker’s (sign) [show] {trade} exhibition opened on Feb. 9 at Gallery KM in Los Angeles. The title, significant in form as much as content is a nod to Macker’s use of signage as a tool to explore identity, commerce and globalism through mixed media sculpture and photographs. “The goal was to create a title with motif words – (sign) refers to contemporary discourse and the literal sign, [show] refers to exhibition, trade show as well as “showing you” and {trade} is about commerce, craft, globalism,” Macker states.

Macker collects advertising signs, seed bags, printed cloth such as tie-dye and pooh-bear prints and found objects to stage reactionary environments that he then photographs. Macker makes signs of signs such as “Cropla Genetics, Northern County Coop.” His photos are colorful, playful and have a wit that exemplifies the curiosity and objectivity of the artist’s perspective. When asked if this body of work was intentionally political Macker acknowleged he has an agenda and is choosing the subject. That being said, he seeks to make the work both formal and reflexive. Maker hopes there is an unraveling process within the idiosyncratic sets he constructs.

In his piece “The Woodcutter, Winslow Homer, 1891” a reclaimed sign stands in front of a high gloss photo of a clean, modern interior and a utopic surfing scene. The sign, “Unit Drilling Company Rig 124” is compositionally in harmony with the surf photo and directs my mind to think about the plastic islands we now have floating in our seas. The sign itself is set on top of a wood palette that is cropped in such a way that it is reminiscent of an island.

In most of Macker’s recent photos there is an overwhelming sense of loss of place and land, and in general the notion of a cultureless society. While this may sound darkly apocalyptic, the aesthetic of his works are full of hope and beauty that underlies the content in the same way clever marketing and graphic design seduce. The artist crops the photographs tight so the signs are centrally located in the frame and are grounded by grey gravel, palettes or metal stands. The fabrics in his photos are the elements that could hold a sense of history, but are so connected to pop culture and commercial textile production they too evade any specific location or identity.

Flatness and more potently flattening objects or three-dimensionality is an important aspect of Macker’s work. His is a glossy, colorful formal approach much like Haim Steinbach’s ready-made arrangements of supermarket and pop commerce items on simple modern, lacquered shelves. Macker’s vignettes could be set up as installations (like Steinbach), but it is the lack of objecthood, physicality, and sensory perception that highlight the words in the sign and create more content. The artist controls and confines his orchestrated environments so the center objects in the frame confront the viewer directly, blatantly.

This is Macker’s second winter in Wyoming, and I believe this gives him a fresh anthropologic eye that has a keen sense and interest in the cultural ephemera of Wyoming and Western industries. Drilling signs, bumper stickers that say things like “Just Frack It” are contemplated, cared for and considered as opposed to brushed over. Macker’s exhibition will be on display through March 16. Images from the show can be seen at gallerykmla.com and fotocoyote.com.


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